Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Focus Less On Sermons?

Thanks to forward from Don Johnson at Project Connect, I just read a great article from the Catholic News Service.  You can find a link here: Research's Advice to Pastors- Spend More Time on Church Supper's.  The basic gist of the article is that it's not religious services themselves that better the quality of life for church members, but rather the building of community with other people of faith that comes out of worship.  Check out the following quote:
The researchers found that nonchurch friends do not provide the same benefit in terms of well-being and that other measures of religiosity -- belief in God or frequency of prayer, for example -- do not serve as a reliable predictor of a person's satisfaction with life... And churchgoing alone without making friends does not improve well-being, they found.  "In short, sitting alone in the pew does not enhance one's life satisfaction," Putnam and Lim wrote. "Only when one forms social networks in a congregation does religious service attendance lead to a higher level of life satisfaction."
Nothing could make a better case for Luther's mention in the Smalcald Articles of "the mutual conversation and consolation with brothers and sisters" as a way the gospel works on us in addition to Word and Sacrament.  Whether or not one decides to focus less on drafting sermons is certainly up for debate, but this article does affirm that focusing more on community building is a must for pastors.  So what do you think about focusing more on community building?  What does/ would that look like in your congregation?  If you're a church leader, what community building techniques have worked?  If you're not currently involved a faith community, what would you like to see? Make a comment, and let's get the conversation going :)

God's peace,

Dustin is a Masters of Divinity candidate in his second year of study at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building.  In his free time, Dustin really likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.


  1. This has been my go to response to the question from my non-church friends "why do you do it?" It is my home. It IS, quite literally, my family in the absence of one. They help raise my son. They laugh with me, cry with me, kick me in the pants when I need it. And honestly, not a lick of that came from sitting in the pews but in group relations: putting together fund raising events, 5K races, hunger drives, teaching adult sunday school, sitting in Bible study, singing in the choir.

    Thanks for the piece - I enjoyed it, and your blog!

    Liz Brunton

  2. Why else would we talk about the "communion of saints" or having a "cloud of witnesses?" These things necessitate community. Community MUST be a desideratum of church, or church cannot be a thing we talk about at all. If the church is the people, it is on building relationships with them that we should focus. Part of that should be in sermons. Part of that should be in Sunday service. Part of it should be in sharing sacraments. But a lion's share must be beyond that, because beyond that is where the lion's share of us are and live. That is why the most important part of the service is the sending. Many times, you hear the question: "why don't people show up to church?" The real question should be: "why isn't the church showing up to people?"